Monday, August 29, 2011

PFA releases WBPL schedule for season's first half

Palestine's league will kick-off in earnest on September 2nd- a day when most other leagues in the world have shut down whilst their players are away on international duty. Not really a surprise, football in Palestine tends to be markedly different- how many leagues still prohibit foreign players?

Strangely enough we still do not know when the preseason tourney- The Yasser Arafat Cup- will wrap up. It is likely that we will have midweek football in Palestine for the first three weeks of the season as a consequence of the hastily organized friendly against Indonesia.

The identity of the two other semifinalists to join Shabab Al-Dhahrieh and Thaqafi Tulkarem will be determined in the next round of matches. Defending champions Tarji Wadi Al-Nes look safe but could mathematically be eliminated with a heavy defeat at the hands of Merkaz Shabab Al-Am'ary. Shabab Al-Khaleel won't be in action in Week 5 but will be hoping for a result to send them to the semifinals.

As for the league proper, dates and times have only been included for the first three weeks of the season. This gives the PFA the opportunity to put the league on an impromptu hiatus should an opportunity to play a friendly comes along. The first nine weeks of the leagues look like this:

Week 1

Shabab Al-Khaleel vs. Tarji Wadi Al-Nes // (1700) // Venue: Al-Hussein
Al-Bireh vs. Balata // (1700) // Venue: Majed As'ad
Al-Dhahrieh vs. Merkaz Tulkarem // (1700) // Venue: Dora
Thaqafi Tulkarem vs. Al-Am'ary // (1700) // Venue: Nablus
Hilal Al-Quds vs. Jabal Al-Muakber // (1700) // Venue: Faisal Al-Husseini

Week 2

Shabab Al-Khaleel vs. Al-Bireh // (1700) // Venue: Al-Hussein
Balata vs. Al-Dhahrieh // (1700) // Venue: Nablus
Jabal Al-Muakber vs. Thaqafi Tulkarem // (1700) // Venue: Al-Khadr


Merkaz Tulkarem vs. Al-Am'ary // (1700) // Venue: Nablus
Tarji Wadi Al-Nes vs. Hilal Al-Quds // (1700) // Venue: al-Khadr

Week 3

Tarji Wadi Al-Nes vs. Al-Bireh // (1700) // Venue: Al-Khadr
Al-Dhahrieh vs. Shabab Al-Khaleel // (1700) // Venue: Dora
Al-Am'ary vs. Balata // (1700) // Venue: Faisal Al-Husseini


Jabal Al-Mukaber vs. Merkaz Tulkarem // (1700) // Venue: Al-Khadr
Hilal Al-Quds vs. Thaqafi Tulkarem // (1700) // Venue: Nablus

Week 4 (TBA)

Al-Bireh vs. Al-Dhahrieh // (TBA) // Venue: Majed As'ad
Shabab Al-Khaleel vs. Al-Am'ary // (TBA) // Venue: Al-Hussein
Balata vs. Jabal Al-Mukaber // (TBA) // Venue: Nablus
Hilal Al-Quds vs. Merkaz Tulkarem// (TBA) // Venue: Faisal Al-Husseini
Thaqafi Tulkarem vs. Tarji Wadi Al-Nes // (TBA) // Venue: Nablus

Week 5 (TBA)

Tarji Wadi Al-Nes vs. Al-Dhahrieh // (TBA) // Venue: Dora
Al-Bireh vs. Merkaz Al-Am'ary // (TBA) // Venue: Faisal Al-Husseini
Balata vs. Hilal Al-Quds // (TBA) // Venue: Nablus
Jabal Al-Mukaber vs. Shabab Al-Khaleel// (TBA) // Venue: Al-Khadr
Thaqafi Tulkarem vs. Merkaz Tulkarem // (TBA) // Venue: Nablus

Week 6 (TBA)

Al-Am'ary vs. Al-Dhahrieh // (TBA) // Venue: Faisal Al-Husseini
Al-Bireh vs. Jabal Al-Mukaber // (TBA) // Venue: Majed As'ad
Tarji Wadi Al-Nes vs. Merkaz Tulkarem// (TBA) // Venue: Al-Khadr
Hilal Al-Quds vs. Shabab Al-Khaleel// (TBA) // Venue: Faisal Al-Husseini
Thaqafi Tulkarem vs. Balata// (TBA) // Venue: TBA

Week 7 (TBA)

Tarji Wadi Al-Nes vs. Al-Am'ary // (TBA) // Venue: Faisal Al-Husseini
Jabal Al-Mukaber vs. Al-Dhahrieh // (TBA) // Venue: Al-Khadr
Al-Bireh vs. Hilal Al-Quds // (TBA) // Venue: Faisal Al-Husseini
Thaqafi Tulkarem vs. Shabab Al-Khaleel// (TBA) // Venue: Al-Hussein
Balata vs. Merkaz Tulkarem // (TBA) // Venue: Nablus

Week 8 (TBA)

Al-Am'ary vs. Jabal Al-Mukaber // (TBA) // Venue: Faisal Al-Husseini
Al-Dhahrieh vs. Hilal Al-Quds// (TBA) // Venue: Dora
Al-Bireh vs. Thaqafi Tulkarem // (TBA) // Venue: Majed Al-As'ad
Merkaz Tulkarem vs. Shabab Al-Khaleel// (TBA) // Venue: Nablus
Balata vs. Tarji Wadi Al-Nes // (TBA) // Venue: Al-Khadr

Week 9 (TBA)

Tarji Wadi Al-Nes vs. Jabal Al-Mukaber // (TBA) // Venue: Al-Khadr
Hilal Al-Quds vs. Merkaz Al-Am'ary // (TBA) // Venue: Faisal Al-Husseini
Thaqafi Tulkarem vs. Al-Dhahrieh // (TBA) // Venue: Nablus
Merkaz Tulkarem vs. Al-Bireh // (TBA) // Venue: Nablus
Shabab Al-Khaleel vs. Balata // (TBA) // Venue: Al-Hussein

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What we learned: Indonesia vs. Palestine

1. Palestine has depth in some positions
Ali El-Khatib's first start showed that Palestine has an array of attacking midfielders to choose from. Increased options means added competition and a guarantee that whomever starts for the national team doesn't do so out of default. It was disappointing not to see Abdelhamid Abuhabib get his first senior cap. He is different than the other options in the attacking midfield; less direct, but better at keeping possession and tracking back and is by far the best distributor in the WBPL.

2. ... and a dearth in others
As far as holding midfielders go only 3 players have played in that position in the past two years: Houssam Wadi, Khader Youssef, & Murad Ismail. Wadi wasn't in the squad for this one so it meant that the latter two started. There has been an influx of talent into the WBPL this offseason so it would be interesting to see if new players can force their way into the squad (perhaps the versatile Luab Kayal can fill this void).

3. Ramzi Saleh's job is safe
Mohammed Shbair has the reflexes- as evidenced by his two penalty saves in 10 caps- but is raw. He needed to hold on to the free kick that resulted in the first goal, on the third goal he could have cut out the danger if he was quicker off his line. These are things that can be fixed with professional development but until Shbair gets that his performances will be inconsistent. Hopefully the PFA can talk to Smouha FC and secure the release of Ramzi Saleh for the Challenge Cup.

4. is Abusidu's
A fullback's first duty to the team is to make sure his positioning is sound. Abusidu might not have the attacking prowess of Harbi or Shareef Adnan but you'll never see him in a panicked run trying to chase a winger that has blown past him. Abu Saleh was all over the place in defence and it is perplexing how he was handed a start after an unsure performance against Afghanistan.

5. A new manager is needed ASAP
The most disappointing aspect of this game was how the team gave up its lead four goals in 20 minutes after having a 1-o lead. The team needs to learn how to manage these situations better, it might not be what the fans want but the team needs a manager who is committed to defensive discipline. Palestine is capable of playing attractive football but it can't afford to neglect its defensive duties whilst doing so. A well drilled team that concedes few goals can do great things in Asia- just look at the success Korea DPR has enjoyed over the past three years.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Comment: Indonesia 4-1 Palestine

Indonesia outclassed Palestine in front of a packed stadium in Solo today. Abdelnasser Barakat was in charge of a squad made up of domestic players that was in for a tough test against an Indonesian side eager for a good show in front of the home fans before heading west for their World Cup qualifiers.

Starting XI (4-5-1): Shbair(GK), Samer Hijazi, Ra'fat Ayyad, Haitham Deeb, Abu Saleh, Khader Yousuf, Murad Ismail, Ashraf Nouman, Suleiman Obeid, Ali Khatib, Fahed Attal(C)

Substitutions: Khaled Salem, Eyad Abugharqoud

The first half was balanced. Ra'fat Ayyad did a good job marshaling the back-line which was missing the experience of Jarun and Bahdari. Samer Hijazi did a decent job in left back, a position we've had trouble filling, and provided needed width on occasion. Both sides came close to scoring on a few tries but were effective in shutting each other out and went into halftime scoreless.

Palestine had a strong start to the second half, keeping possession in the midfield. Sulaiman Obeid beat the offside trap to lob it over the keeper and give his team the lead. For a little while longer, Palestine seemed in control. The Indonesians stepped up their game with Cristian Gonzales and Bambang Pamungkas giving the Palestinian defence trouble and forcing fouls. The equalizer came from a set piece that was saved by Shbair but deflected right to Hariono's head. This is when things fell apart. The 25,000 home fans pushed their team for more and it was only a matter of time before the inexperience in the defence started to show. Abu Saleh was particularly vulnerable at right back, two goals coming from that side. Eyad Abugharqoud came on for Attal and Khaled Salem made his international debut coming in for Ashraf No'man as Barakat switched to a 4-4-2. The tactical shift had no effect on the game as Indonesia remained in control and finished it in style, scoring all four goals within twenty minutes.

The scoreline wouldn't suggest it, but perhaps we can take a few positives from the match, particularly from the youngsters. Ali Khatib was great in the midfield pairing up nicely with Suleiman Obaid and Samer Hijazi showed he has the potential to be molded into a decent left-back.

I am not going to say I was disappointed though I was expecting the scoreline to be a little less harsh. It is rather worrying to see a domestic squad take such a beating, especially when we might have to do without most of our foreign-league players for the Challenge Cup.

Lastly, to our Indonesian friends, thank you for your kind words on Twitter and on the blog, much love. You impressed us with your passion for your team, especially in the stands. We wish you the best of luck in your World Cup Qualifying group!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Preview: Indonesia vs. Palestine

What: International Friendly
Where: Solo, Indonesia
When: August 22nd, 2011
Kick-off: 8 pm (UTC/GMT +7 hrs)

TV/Streams: Match will be aired in Indonesia on SCTV.

Past Meetings: None

Palestine will face off against Indonesia for the first time in Solo on Monday night in search for answers to a laundry list of questions. It comes as a surprise that the FA rushed to cancel the Tanzania friendly on August 10th (a FIFA date) only to schedule this one 12 days later. The team is still without a manager and former Moussa Bezaz assistant Abdel-Nasser Barakat has been handed the reins on an interim basis.

Barakat's squad does very little to inspire but he has committed to the youth movement including six Olympic Team members in his 21-man squad. Fans will be demanding that Abuhabib, who has bee in sensational form over the past year, finally get his first cap with the national team. It remains to be seen whether or not Barakat sticks with Bezaz's conservative 4-2-3-1- if he does look for Khaled Salem (who would be making his first appearance as well) to be played up top as the loneliest man in the world.

Who starts at the back is the big question mark for Palestine. Palestine's first choice back line (Abusidu, Bahdari, Jarun, Bishara) all ply their trades abroad and will not be available for this match. Their clubs will also have the right not to release them for the 2012 Challenge Cup so it is of the upmost importance that capable backups are identified.

Khaled Mahdi, Samer Hijazi, and Ahmed Harbi (who isn't with squad in Indonesia) started all the qualifying matches but had the luxury of Abdelatif Bahdari marshaling them and covering up their mistakes. Expect the former two to line-up in the middle and the left of defence, respectively. Haitham Dheeb, who played in the WAFF tournament against Iraq, could slot in next to Mahdi. Barakat could also opt for Olympic Team standout Nadim Barghouthi or the highly rated but rarely capped Rafit Eyad. My choice would be Eyad; the schoolteacher has had to turn down call-ups because of his job but is highly rated by watchers of the WBPL. That leaves the right hand side and after Abu Saleh's atrocious display against Afghanistan at home I would hope Barakat hands a chance to Ahmed Salameh who played on the left for the Olympic team but is more than able of deputizing on the right.

So what can we expect from Indonesia? They'll be looking to trim their squad and figure out how to approach their World Cup qualifying games against Iran, Bahrain, and Qatar. Indonesia might elect to field an experimental line-up against us while saving some of their starters for the tougher challenge of playing a full-strength Jordan in Amman five days later. Whatever the case might be, Tim Garuda were gracious enough to invite us so hopefully we'll give them a real test.

FP's favored starting XI:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Squad to face Indonesia announced

After a two-day delay left us guessing the members of the squad who will face Indonesia we finally can confirm the identities of the squad members. National team stalwarts Murad Alyan and Ismail Amour will miss out through injury. Houssam Wadi's choice to move back to his native Gaza to be closer to his family complicated his call-up and he is also left out. Interim manager Abdel-Nasser Barakat will maintain the ban imposed on Abdullah Saidawi and Ahmed Keshkesh by his predecessor. In all 20 players- all who ply their trade in the West Bank Premier League- will make the trip to Jakarta. The team is currently in Amman and will continue its journey tomorrow.


Mohammed Shbair (Shabab Al-Khaleel)
Fahed Al-Fakhuri (Thaqafi Tulkarem)
Toufic Ali (Wadi Al-Nes)


Ahmed Salameh (Al-Am'ary)
Khaled Mahdi (Al-Am'ary)
Haitham Dheeb (Hilal Al-Quds)
Hussam Abu Saleh (Hilal Al-Quds)
Rafit Eyad (Jabal Al-Mukaber)
Samer Hijazi (Jabal Al-Mukaber)
Nadim Barghouthi (Shabab Al-Khaleel)


Suleiman Obeid (Al-Am'ary)
Abdelhamid Abuhabib (Balata)
Murad Ismail (Hilal Al-Quds)
Ali El-Khatib (Hilal Al-Quds)
Hani Abu Bilal (Shabab Al-Dhahrieh)
Mohammed Jebreen (Shabab Al-Khaleel)
Ashraf Nu'man (Wadi Al-Nes)
Khader Yousef (Wadi Al-Nes)


Eyad Abugharqud (Shabab Al-Khaleel)
Fahed Attal (Shabab Al-Khaleel)
Khaled Salem (Shabab Al-Dhahrieh)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Palestine to meet Indonesia in Friendly

According to Palestinian and Indonesian sources, preparations are being made for a Palestine-Indonesia friendly. FIFA has the match date listed as the 22nd of the month.

The match is set to be played outside Jakarta in Solo Manahan stadium as the intimidating Gelora Bung Karno is being renovated. Indonesia will use the match as a warm up before the squad's trip to West Asia to meet Jordan in a friendly and Iran in a World Cup Qualifier. Indonesia overcame Turkmenistan to get to the group stage, Palestine missing out after losing to Thailand on aggregate.

No word yet on the Palestine squad that will take part. Palestine has been manager-less since Mousa Bezaz's contract was not renewed after World Cup qualification failure. A temporary local coach will likely be appointed for the match.

[Update]: Bezaz's assistant Abdel-Nasser Barakat will take charge of the NT on an interim basis. 1st game in charge will be vs. Indonesia.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The search for a new NT manager continues...

After Moussa Bezaz's contract was not renewed by the PFA last week it was assumed that a candidate was in place. It is becoming abundantly clear that that is not the case and the abrupt cancellation of an August 7th friendly against Estonia and an August 10th friendly against Tanzania. Time is of the essence and the FA needs to ensure that a new manager is in place by the end of the month to that friendlies are organized on FIFA dates in September and October.

The Managerial Checklist

1. A Gameplan: One of the most glaring deficiencies with the previous regime was a complete lack of planning. Squads lacked balance, the manager didn't settle on a shape until the final 4 months of his tenure, there were no set piece plays, and you could forget about tactics. This lack of planning was glaringly evident during the return leg of the Thailand match- Palestine grabbed and early equalizer but some of the players were unaware of what they should be doing, should they press on for a second? Sit back and defend? That lack of preparation is unacceptable. Palestine needs a manager with a vision and a plan for its players to fit a formation and style. The reality of Asian football is that a well-drilled side can compete and succeed- Just look at the success Jordan has had in the past decade.

2. Poise: One of the worst things about Bezaz was his staunch refusal to take any blame for the team's failures. Bezaz has blamed the referee, the occupation, the weather, fatigue, and most puzzlingly- the fact that league play ended in mid-May. Palestine need a manager who can lift the team and instill confidence in them. Bezaz was too lassiez-faire, too reactionary. The argument over the captaincy between Abdullah Saidawi and Ahmed Keshkesh is the perfect example. National Team managers decide on a captain and a vice-captain early and in the absence of Ramzi Saleh there needed to be a conversation behind closed doors were this deal could be hammered out.

3. Scouting: Whomever is chosen to fill the post there needs to realize that being a national team manager is a full-time job. Bezaz would go back to France for months at a time and just show up in Palestine for training camps. The new national team manager has to spend time traveling to the Gulf, Europe, and Latin America to court new talent. At the same time he has to spend time in Palestine and keep his finger on the pulse of the league. When he's not in the country he should delegate this duty to an assistant coach and this shouldn't be limited to the West Bank. Although the league in Gaza is a lot less established the talent of its top players is undeniable.

The Candidates

1. Hossam Hassan: [UPDATE:Hassan will be taking over at Ismaily, so he is out of the running] An Egyptian footballing legend with 169 caps and 69 goals over a sparkling 20-year career with Egypt. He is the only manager whose name has been floated around by the media. As far as his managerial career is concerned he is relatively inexperienced having been in charge of Zamalek for a mere 18 months. Before that he had brief stints with Al-Masry, whom he saved from relegation in 2007/08. He resigned the next season but not before receiving a 6-match ban and a 50,ooo EGP fine. Hassan took over the helm at Egyptian Telecom later on in the 2008/09 season and nearly kept them up. He jumped to Zamalek midway through the following season and in 12 games took the team from 14th to 2nd, winning 31 out of a possible 36 points. Zamalek were in first before the league (9W 5D 1L) was postponed due to the revolution. After the league resumed the spark wasn't there and Zamalek endured a winless streak in the final weeks of the season that allowed El-Ahly to move past them and into first place. Hassan is insanely passionate and is a proven winner but has yet to really prove himself as a manger. That said, he would still be an upgrade over Mousa Bezaz whose only top-flight job before joining us was as a caretaker at AS Nancy in 2002.

2. Alfred Riedl: FA President Jibril Rajoub has stated that he wants to appoint a manager who is aware of the challenges facing Palestinian football. Then why not get a manager who has coached us before? Riedl has previously coached Austria, Liechtenstein, Vietnam (thrice), Palestine, Laos, and Indonesia. He came close to guiding Vietnam to the AFC Asian Cup finals in 2000 and 2004 (recording a famous 1-0 win against South Korea during 2004 qualifying). Vietnam brought Riedl back to the fold when they were set to co-host the Asian Cup in 2007. Riedl led Vietnam past the group stage (beating UAE, drawing Qatar) only to lose to eventual champions Iraq 2-0. In his three stints in charge of Vietnam Riedl had a record of 25W 10D 16L. His time with Laos was brief before jumping ship to take over the Indonesia post. Riedl did have an impressive record in competitive matches (6W 0D 1L) his overall record is an impressive (10W 0D 2L). He was let go ahead of the World Cup qualifying clash against Turkmenistan but the team that advanced to the third round had his fingerprints all over it. With Palestine he is best known for engineering the 8-0 hammering of Chinese Taipei and the 1-1 draw against Iraq that sent Palestine to top of their 2006 World Cup qualifying.

3. Someone else: Let's be real here who could have guessed Mousa Bezaz would get the job in July 2009? Most managerial appointments in the Middle East have a touch of random chance about them. Carlos Quieroz in Iran? Zico in talks to coach Iraq? Bob Bradley potentially taking over Egypt? We might not get a big name but we will probably get an appointment that nobody expected. In fact, I would say that odds are that is what's going to happen. Until then it's a lot of speculation- and the coaching carrousel is in full swing: Wolfgang Sidka did not have his contract renewed with Iraq, Milovan Rajevac was fired from his post as a coach of Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have probably fired a dozen managers since I started writing this post...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bin Hammam, Rajoub and....Nepal?

On July 26th, MBC's pan-Arab football program Sada alMala'eb hosted Mohammed Awada, editor-in-chief of Qatari sports magazine Staad alDawha(Doha Stadium). On the topic of Bin Hammam's FIFA ban, Awada said that the former AFC head was sold out by 'friends'. Asked by Mustafa Agha to name names, he casually hints at an FA that was allowed to play matches at home after years of not being able. Agha asks if its Hussein Sa'eed, head of the Iraq FA. Awada replies that there is another country, referring to Palestine and Jibril Rajoub. (Transcript). Awada had originally pointed the finger at Rajoub in this piece.

Whether or not there are any grounds to his claims, Awada's comments suggest there might have been a conflict between Rajoub and Bin Hammam, giving Rajoub a motive to target the latter's career. While we don't have any inside sources or investigative tools at our hands, we can at least try to connect the dots.

Palestine was in the running to host the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup along with Nepal and the Maldives. On July 29th, Nepal was chosen to host the event.

In its current post-Bin Hammam phase, the AFC is doing some restructuring to undo years of possible corruption and mismanagement. As James Dorsey reports for Al-Arabiya, a 'dismantling of Bin Hammam's legacy' is in effect. Among other issues, the Nepal hosting decision was brought into question:

"Jordanians who played in Nepal earlier this month described the pitch as a dirt field and the countries facilities as abysmal.
An AFC inspection team evaluating Nepal’s bid to host the Cup, much as what happened with FIFA’s evaluation of Qatar, advised against awarding the tournament to Nepal and in favor of its competitors, Palestine and the Maldives.
The AFC’s competition committee, headed by Yousuf al-Serkel, a UAE national and ally of Mr. Bin Hammam, backed the Nepali bid despite the inspection report, the sources and Mr. Velappan said.
Sources close to the AFC deliberations said Mr. Thapa as a member of the executive committee had acted improperly by lobbying the organization to ignore the inspectors’ report and award the hosting of the Cup to his country."

Interesting. Even though the AFC inspection team advised against Nepal being given hosting privileges, they were chosen anyways. If there was indeed corruption, the people behind it would definitely have crossed Mr. Rajoub as it came at Palestine's(and the Maldives) expense.

While we cannot say for sure that there was corruption in the AFC competition committee, or that Rajoub had something to do with Bin Hammam's downfall, this all does make for an interesting narrative.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Video Diary: Palestine Home Match

A little video which hopefully captures the experience of attending a Palestine home match.
Date: July 28th 2011
Event: World Cup Qualifier 2nd leg vs. Thailand. Faisal Husseini International Stadium
Result: 2-2 (Palestine losing 2-3 on aggregate)

Watch in HD!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Top Five New WBPL Players

1. Fahed Attal (Shabab Al-Khaleel)

Former Clubs: Al-Jazira (JOR/2006-2010), Wehdat (JOR/2010-2011)

After a five year stint in Jordan, an older more experienced Fahed Attal is back in Palestine. A lot was expected of Attal when he burst onto the scene in 2006 with the national team scoring 12 goals. The goals with the national team have dried up although he has shown a knack for creating chances for others.

While in Jordan, Attal was a 10 goal a season striker. Fans will expect him to better that number in a stacked Shabab Al-Khaleel squad. He will also have a capable partner in Eyad Abugharqud who scored a whopping 20 goals in 22 games with Al-Am'ary last season.

2. Ahmed Keshkesh (Al-Am'ary)

Former Clubs: Wehdat (JOR/2009-2011), Shabab Al-Ordon (JOR/2009), Al-Am'ary (2008)

Keshkesh makes his return to Al-Am'ary after a two year period where he scored in every single competition for Wehdat. He will forever be remembered for his clutch performances in the team scoring in the 2009 Supercup, 2010 FA Cup, and 2011 FA Cup finals.

His move to Al-Am'ary coincides with the departure of Eyad Abugharqud to Shabab Al-Khaleel. So it will fall on Keshkesh's shoulders to replace the 20 league goals Abugharqud scored. Keshkesh scored 14 in 21 games in his previous season with Al-Am'ary.

3. Amir Abu Arar (Shabab Al-Dhahrieh)

Former Clubs: Hapoel Umm El-Fahm, Maccabi Be'er Sheeva (ISR/2007-08), Hakoah Ramat Gan (ISR/2008-09), Bnei Sakhnin (ISR/2009), Ironi Umm El-Fahm (ISR/2009-10), Hapoel Nazareth (ISR/2010-11), Hapoel Kfar Saba (2011)

A journeyman by all accounts who spent the past four seasons on loan at six different clubs in the Premier League and first division. An unknown quantity that just could be the next Murad Alyan. He's 26 so his best football is in front of him and he'll have the perfect complement in strike partner Khaled Salem.

4. Jehad Rabie (Shabab Al-Khaleel)

Former Clubs: Maccabi Kafr Kanna, Bnei Tayibe

Will be given the opportunity to sort out Shabab Al-Khaleel's defensive troubles alongside former Hilal Al-Quds defender Mohammed Abdel-Jawad. From a national team standpoint the depth chart at this position is undetermined. Bahdari and Jarun are surefire starters but club commitments might keep them out of the Challenge Cup. If Rabie can come in and have a dominant first half of the season he might find himself part of the national team set-up

5. Walid Abbas (Shabab Al-Khaleel)

Former Clubs: Hapoel Umm Al-Fahm

Another footballer with vast experience in Israel predominantly with Hapoel Umm Al-Fahm. Current Shabab Al-Khaleel manager Sameer Issa coached him when he was with Umm Al-Fahm and fought to bring him to the West Bank. He's a Palestinian left-back so a lot of eyes will be on him to see how he will fit into this newly formed Shabab Al-Khaleel squad. If he proves to be a success he'll have every opportunity to stake a claim in the national team under a new coach.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

WBPL Season Preview

The domestic season set to kick off with the Supercup (Al-Am'ary vs. Hilal Al-Quds) on August 5th. One day later the season kicks off for the other eight Premier League teams with the start of the Yasser Arafat Cup. Below we preview the competition and tell you who is set to contend for the title this season.

Yasser Arafat Cup Groups:

Group 1:
1. Al-Am'ary
2. Shabab Al-Khaleel
3. Jabal Al-Mukaber
4. Tarji Wadi Al-Nees
5. Merkaz Tulkarem

Group 2:
1. Hilal Al-Quds
2. Balata
3. Dhahrieh
4. Al-Bireh
5. Thaqafi Tulkarem

Merkaz Shabab Al-Am'ary (MSA)

Last Season: Champions

Key Additions: Houssam Wadi, Ismail Amour, Assem Abu Assi, Ahmed Keshkesh
Key Losses: Eyad Abugharqud, Nadim Al-Barghouthi, Ahsan Sadeq, Saleh Aslieh

The defending league champions seem primed to repeat having strengthened their midfield through the acquisitions of Wadi and Amour. Assem Abu Assi was an upgrade at goalkeeper, but he has announced his intent to return to Gaza to be closer to his family [UPDATE: Abu Assi has done a 180 and now wants to stay]. The loss of top goal scorer Eyad Abugharqud should be made up with the return of Ahmed Keshkesh after a successful two-year stint in Jordan with Wihdat. Al-Am'ary's starting XI will also include 7 national team players with the likes of Suleiman Obeid, Khaled Mahdi, Ayman Alhendi and Ahmed Harbi also in the fold.

Prediction: Champions

Hilal Al-Quds (HAQ)

Last Season: 2nd Place

Key Additions: Ali El-Khatib, Alaa Attieh, Saed Abu Saleem, Mohammed Khweis, Maen Obeid, Shadi Allan, Raed Fares, Hatem Karim
Key Losses: Mohammed Abdel Jawad, Ehab Abujazr, Mohammed Jamal Jebreen

Hilal Al-Quds captured the FA Cup and came incredibly close to lifting a league title as well. The team leaned heavily on goalkeeper Abdullah Saidawi who kept the most clean sheets last season and striker Murad Alyan who scored 20 league goals and had a whopping 34 in all competitions. The question is whether or not these two players can continue their fine run of form. Ali El-Khatib should help improve service to Alyan in midfield and if Alaa Attieh- top scorer in the Gazan Legaue- is allowed entry into the West Bank he should be able to take some pressure off Murad Alyan. The club should finish in the top three but at least two rivals have done a better job of strengthening their squads in the offseason.

Prediction: 3rd

Shabab Al-Dhahrieh (SAD)

Last Season: 3rd

Key Additions: Khaled Salem, Amir Abu Arar, Diya Abu Eyadeh, Ahmad Allan
Key Losses: None

It seemed that The Oryxes had lost a key player in National Team winger Atef Abu Bilal until the FA ruled that Abu Bilal had violated his contract by signing with Shabab Al-Khaleel. Dhahrieh finished 3rd last season and will be an interesting team to watch after adding promising young striker Khaled Salem to the team. Salem wasn't in fine form with Merkaz Tulkarem last season but was one of the Olympic Team's best players this past year scoring against Lebanon, Lega Pro Select, and in both legs against Bahrain. With a better supporting cast will this be the season Khaled Salem breaks out? This is definitely the dark horse in the competition, a lot will depend on how the new players pan out especially the ones coming over from the Israeli League- Amir Abu Arar and Diya Abu Eyadeh.

Prediction: 4th

Merkaz Shabab Balata (BAL)

Last Season: 4th

Key Additions: ِAbdelhamid Abuhabeeb (contract renewed for 3 years), Ahsan Sadeq, Arafat Abu Sarhan.
Key Losses: Saed Abu Saleem, Mohammed Khweis, Wasim Eqab, Mustafa Kamil

The good news is that Balata has retained one of the best players in the game in Abdelhamid Abuhabeeb. The bad news is that his supporting cast in attack has opted to leave and to add insult to injury goalkeeper Saed Abu Saleem has also left to ostensibly sit on the bench at Hilal Al-Quds. Balata surprised everyone in their first season in the top league but they look set for a sophomore slump. Can Abuhabeeb save them from a relegation dogfight? We think so.

Prediction: 6th

Tarji Wadi Al-Nes (TWN)

Last Season: 5th

Key Additions: None
Key Losses: None

Champions three years ago Wadi Al-Nes has always preferred to look within for their stars. The core of this team comes from a single family Amjad Zidan and Ashraf Nu'man are cousins (Hence the same last name- Fawargha) so are Khader Yousef and Toufic Ali (last name- Abu Hamad). The stability means Wadi Al-Nes are unlikely to suffer a dip in form on the other hand they won't exceed expectations either.

Prediction: 5th

Shabab Al-Khaleel

Last Season: 6th

Key Additions: Fahed Attal, Mohammed Abdel Jawad, Nadim Barghouthi Mohammed Jamal Jebreen, Fayez Aslieh, Salah Aslieh, Mousa Abu Jazr, Khalil Abu Jazr, Eyad Abugharqud, Jehad Rabie, Walid Abbas
Key Losses: Mohammed-Ali Shatrit, Ali Ayesh, Raed Fares

The most successful club in Palestinian football has spared no expense in returning to the pinnacle. Eyad Abugharqud and Fahed Attal will link up to create what should be the most potent strike force in the league. Abdel Jawad, Nadim Barghouthi and Fayez Aslieh should strengthen the back line whilst Jebreen and the Abu Jazrs should provide the midfield with an attacking punch. It all looks good on paper but will the squad gel in time?

Prediction: 2nd

Jabal Al-Mukaber (JAM)

Last Season: 7th

Key Additions: Yahya Badra
Key Losses: Assem Abu Assi, Ismail Amour, Houssam Wadi, Ali El-Khatib, Jamal Allan, Ahmad Allan, Shadi Allan, Mahmoud Awdeh, Hatem Karim

Last season was a huge disappointment for the defending champions who spent most the season closer to the bottom than the top of the league. The core of this team has left but it can't be too hard to match the abysmal 24 points in 22 games the team collected last year. It will be a rebuilding phase and if the remnants of this team don't rally around each other Mukaber will most certainly be going down. Either way, this team is poised for a relegation fight.

Prediction: 7th

Al-Bireh Institute (MB)

Last Season: 8th

Key Additions: Wasim Eqab, Houssam Ziyadeh, Mahmoud Awdeh

Scored a measly 19 goals last season- second lowest only to Asker who were relegated. Wasim Eqab and Houssam Ziyadeh were brought in to address the team's anemic scoring. Will be one of the favorites to go down but might have an ace in their sleeve in the form of a good youth academy. They'll need some of the youngsters to step up if they are to stay up.

Prediction: 9th

Thaqafi Tulkarem (TTK)

Last Season: 9th

Key Additions: Miha Sinisimac (manager), Mustafa Kamil, Fadi Hasasneh

The least star-studded line-up in the league will struggle to stay up but perhaps the new Croatian manger can bring some fresh ideas to the team. Goalkeeper Fahed Al-Fakhuri will be leaned on heavily.

Prediction: 10th

Merkaz Tulkarem (MTK)

Last Season: 10th

Key Losses: Khaled Salem, Maen Obeid

Our pick to survive the relegation scrap based mostly on the fact that they somehow managed to avoid the axe this past year. In the final 8 games of the season, perhaps buoyed by the break in play thanks to the Challenge Cup Qualifiers, Tulkarem lost only once while collecting 4 wins and 3 draws. To put things in perspective in the first 13 games of the season Merkaz collected a paltry 6 points in the final 8 an impressive 15! It will be interesting to see how the team adapts in the absence of Khaled Salem and Maen Obeid.

Prediction: 8th

Monday, August 1, 2011

OFFICIAL: Bezaz & Al-Talili removed.

As per reports on the FA website and various articles in the Palestinian Media. FA President Jibril Rajoub has elected not to renew Moussa Bezaz's contract while also dissolving the staffs of the Olympic Team and Women's Team.

No word yet on a replacement but Rajoub has stated that both the National and Olympic Team managers would be foreign hires.

Moussa Bezaz had a 3-6-4 record in FIFA sanctioned games during his time in charge. His most notable achievement was leading Palestine to the Challenge Cup finals after collecting seven points from a qualification group that included Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Philippines.